Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been left scrambling to save the country’s right-wing following the split in the Jewish Home party, pushing to lower the electoral threshold to preserve a Knesset majority.
Speaking to senior officials in the Likud party – which Netanyahu currently leads – the prime minister said that,
“[Naftali] Bennett and [Ayelet] Shaked are destroying right-wing parties, which won’t pass the electoral threshold.”
“This is a fatal wound to the nationalist camp that [could] lead to the rise of a left-wing government.”
Polls say Netanyahu looks set to extend his long reign at the top of Israeli politics, but a slew of corruption investigations have cast a cloud over his future. https://t.co/dNKd931434
— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 30, 2018
Netanyahu’s comments were confirmed by a spokesman for the Likud party today, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu was referring to the shock decision announced this weekend by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that they were splitting from their current party – Jewish Home – in order to form the “New Right” (Hayemin Hehadash) party.
Though the “New Right” party will still pursue Bennett’s typically hawkish security policies and opposition to any future Palestinian state, the move has been interpreted as a bid to appeal to both secular right-wing and ultra-Orthodox voters, as opposed to the religious-Zionist camp that has traditionally supported the Jewish Home party.
— Yara-ma-yha-who 🖐️ (@Unkle_Ken) December 31, 2018
The decision could prove fatal for the Jewish Home party, with initial polls showing it could struggle to reach the minimum electoral threshold needed to sit in the Knesset – which currently sits at 3.25 percent of the vote or four seats in the 120-seat parliament. Although in previous years Israel has repeatedly increased the minimum threshold to reduce the number of fringe and Arab parties able to sit in the Knesset, reports have emerged today that Netanyahu is considering reversing this trend to ensure Jewish Home’s participation in any ruling coalition after 9 April.
Although Bennett and Shaked’s move this weekend came as a surprise to both observers and the Jewish Home party itself, the Times of Israel has discovered that the pair may have been planning the split since August.
Burned by religious Zionist old guard, Bennett seeks a new kind of right-winger: Leaving Jewish Home, Netanyahu's former aides hopes to challenge the prime minister by reaching new audiences, particularly those who won't abandon them under… https://t.co/ydRRk7vCFc TimesofIsrael pic.twitter.com/2gzwyMhThn
— Jewish Community (@JComm_BlogFeeds) December 29, 2018
This is not the first time Bennett and Shaked have colluded to further their political agenda. Following the resignation of defense minister Avigdor Lieberman in November, Bennett quickly demanded that the Jewish Home party be given the newly-vacated defense portfolio, threatening to bring down the government if his demands were not met.
When Netanyahu called Bennett’s bluff – taking on the position himself and refusing to give in to the party’s demands – Bennett conceded defeat and agreed to keep his party in the ruling coalition. Bennett has since continued the charge against Netanyahu, earlier this month protesting against the latter’s handling of the recent escalation of tensions in the occupied West Bank.
(MEMO, PC, Social Media)